Warning: No good pictures accompany this post. I'm not a wildlife photographer, never have the camera with me when I need it and anyway they'd just look like blurry dots. So you're stuck with badly lit pictures of a book.
When you live in a city it is easy to overlook the wildlife around you. For most of the years that I lived in London, I rarely saw anything more interesting than a sparrow or pigeon and it was only at the end of my time there, living just across the river from the Walthamstow Nature Reserve, that I came to appreciate the wildlife that can be found near the centre of such a large urban area. We had herons, kestrel, greater spotted and green woodpeckers as well as wrens, tits and finches.
Of course on moving to the country and to a National Park, what we saw and heard changed. Owls at night never failed to charm me. And I particularly love raptors - the buzzards which were common around us in Crickhowell, and the occasional red kite.
Now I'm back in a city, but it's a city on the other side of the world, with very different birdlife. What is common for the San Franciscan is anything but to me. And San Francisco is a lot less built up than London, so there are opportunities to see hawks even when you are quite a long way from the nearest park. One flew straight past our deck the other day, pursued by some crows of some kind. I have bought myself a book: Birds of San Francisco and the Bay Area. It's not huge or terribly detailed but it covers enough to give me a shot at identifying what I see around me.
So far I've seen this (a Stellar's Jay) up in Twin Peaks
and this (Anna's Hummingbird) in a tree in the back garden
and lots of these from the distance which is a good thing as they are ugly things close up (Turkey Vulture). My Californian guide (a friend who puts up with daft questions) tells me they are called Buzzards by locals, and they do look similar when in flight apart from the colouring.
Unfortunately the only owls I've seen so far are models used as pigeon scarers on the roofs of houses. And I haven't seen a chicken for weeks - at least not a live, egg-laying chicken with a name. Wonder how the girls are doing?